Where to start?

Obviously, as for anything, podcasting involves planning steps like before to start, what you’ll need and so on. Those early stages – taking place way before to press the record button – are critical and I will address them individually, but later! So what this post – where to start – is about if I am already skipping the beginning?

Previously on the CogitActive saga:
After choosing podcasting over blogging, I started a blog!

I owed you an explanation1. Here goes.

What makes a podcast?

To explain this little detour, that is this blog, I have to start by the end: the final components of a podcast. As previously discussed (see What is a podcast?), a podcast is, from a minimalistic and technical point of view, an audio file and an RSS feed.

Audio file

Audio file icon

The audio file is definitively the main component of a podcast; the alpha and the omega. Most of your work will revolve around creating it, but more importantly, this is the end product that people are listening to. However, to end up with this perfect show, you first have to record something. This involves having something to talk about, some equipment and skills. Recording is just the beginning, though. You will then discover the joy of editing, mixing… well, basically, the world of producing. This naked audio file will also need a title, a cover art, and much more to populate your file’s metadata. To say the least, there is much more in this audio file than just digital audio data, but for this post, I will just consider the final product, i.e. the MP3 file.

RSS feed

Rss feed icon

This is the essence of podcasting. Technically, podcasts are XML files that index the MP3 files and metadata that represent each episode2. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language and, as such, defines a set of rules, namely tags, for encoding your text in a format that machines (applications) can read. As suggested by the X, XML was extended to RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary), which was further extended to create RSS 2.03 The key modification, in order for podcasting to work, was the advent of the <enclosure> tag, which contains information on the physical location, size, and type of the file. Anyway, don’t worry: you don’t have to learn the XML language nor how to generate an RSS 2.0 feed – not anymore – as there are plenty of tools or services that handle this for you. All you really need to know about RSS is that its main function is to distribute your media files to people who have subscribed to your podcast.

Media host

Great, but if you keep the aforementioned files in your computer, nobody will ever know about your podcast. You must host them somewhere online. Now, one common misconception when learning how to make a podcast is that you upload your podcast to places like iTunes4. In fact, what you need is a host with unlimited storage and great bandwidth, namely a media host. More importantly, you should not upload those audio files to your own website; you need a separate host just for your audio files5. Even if you already have a website, you don’t want to host your .MP3s on the same server5. You could, but it is absolutely not recommended, as explained, for instance, in this article from Colin Gray.

Show notes

Show notes on a clipboard

To enhance the listener experience, it is extremely critical6 to provide some information on the show, namely show notes. They are designed to quickly showcase or highlight the relevant and pertinent contents of the audio file itself3. They also provide helpful information such as the list of resources mentioned (with links when possible), or any supplementary material. Whether you only give a summary of the podcast episode, or go into greater detail, show notes allow you to create another piece of content.

Piecing them together

How do those pieces fit together into a podcast? Briefly, you host your audio files and your RSS file7 in your media host, prior to linking to them from your website, where your show notes reside. Undoubtedly, it is very confusing and I was myself completely lost until I saw this video from Pat Flynn.

Actually, your podcast could stand on its own and exist only as an RSS 2.0 file, that is without show notes. Further, most media host will offer you the opportunity to host your entire podcast website. You could post your show notes there, but it is better to deliver your podcast through your own website, and just using the media host to store the files8. The easy vs. hard choice again, but as you can imagine, I have chosen the path of most resistance. The bottom line is:

After choosing to do a podcast over a blog, here I am,
creating a website and quite ironically starting a blog!

Ok, I provide you with a rational for the website, but you may still wonder: why a blog? Solely, to allow you – yes, YOU – to follow this podcasting adventure (almost) live (see The CogitActive Saga). Let me reiterate that The CogitActive Saga is not a step-by-step tutorial, but a long, involved story. However, don’t desperate, despite some detour (a blog) and an unusual approach (a story), by the end of the saga, you will see a linear path from the conceptualization stages to the final publication of my podcast.


1 See Why a podcast? ^
2 Brendan Hesse (2016) How to make a successful podcast. Digital Trends. ^
3 Tee Morris, Chuck Tomasi, and Evo Terra (2008) Podcasting For Dummies – Second Edition. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing. ^
4 Matthew McLean (2018) How to start a podcast: step by step. The Podcast Host. ^
5 Corey Ferreira (2017) How to start a podcast: the ultimate step by step podcasting guide. Shopify. ^
6 Todd Cochrane (2005) Podcasting – The Do-It-Yourself Guide. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing. ^
7 Where you host your RSS feed is a highly debated question as exemplified in this episode of the Audacity to Podcast. I will come back on that matter in the future, as I haven’t figured out what is the best decision yet. ^
8 Matthew McLean (2018) How to upload a podcast (or where does a podcast live?!). The Podcast Host. ^


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